Welcome to the next installment of my Spock/Zia stories that began with Starfleet Academy, continued with Vulcan Hunters and Children of Two Worlds, and will possibly conclude with this. If you haven't already, I would read the above stories, as well as Blind, Depressed, Dissolute and Hopeless. All four stories prelude this one and provide insight into my OC characters as well as the different relationships between characters.

This story is set during the entirety of the Enterprise's five-year mission into deep space, beginning during their first month and ending upon their arrival back on Earth. The events of Star Trek: Beyond will also take place during this story.

Throughout the story, I not only want to focus on Spock and Zia's relationship, but also telling the stories of the rest of the characters. While the first few stories were told from Spock and Zia's POV, that has now expanded to involve the rest of Alpha-shift and my OC's. There are new friends, new relationships, and new enemies that the crew of the Enterprise will deal with throughout their five-year mission, and I do hope you enjoy exploring them with me.

Without further ado, I give you... the first chapter!

o.O.o

Chapter 1 – Cestus III

One month

"This is Captain Kirk calling Federation Outpost Cestus III. Have we been given the all-clear?"

"Yes Captain. You are cleared for entry."

"Thank you Commander Kirby. You'll be seeing us in just under an hour." Captain Kirk spun around in his chair and clapped his hands together. "Well folks, this is our last pit stop before we go out into undiscovered space! Everyone ready for their toilet break?"

"Very funny Captain," Uhura snickered. He was exaggerating a bit, as this was the first time they'd stopped since embarking on their mission. They'd been at Warp for a whole month, brooding on how un-glamorous this actually was – for every day of excitement there was a month of boredom. All the drama came from Engineering when some careless redshirts performed an experiment gone wrong, resulting in McCoy screaming at the offending crewmembers. Some humour could be attributed to the hypo-wielding doctor, as he was relentless in his mission to vaccinate every crewmember against every disease known to man. It was actually entertaining whenever some poor man or woman raced through the corridors, the shouting doctor in tow. McCoy kept everyone on their toes and several Ensigns were plotting to have him accidentally thrown out of Airlock C. They still had four years and eleven months to survive with him…

The Enterprise dropped out of Warp and was caught in the gravity of Cestus III, which anchored it in place. Despite Sulu's expertise with landing the craft, Kirk wanted to avoid landing as much as possible. Instead he directed people to board the shuttles and use them to fly down to the surface. All pilots manned one of the many shuttles and the Beta-shift crew was left in charge until the Alpha-shift returned.

Upon their arrival on Cestus III, everyone exited the shuttle and sighed at the feel of the sun on their skin, no matter how weak the rays were. They were greeted by pale yellow skies and a greeting party made up of Commander Kirby and his security officers. Two hundred crewmembers were escorted to the Federation Outpost for a couple hours of rest and relaxation before leaving Federation space for good.

"So Commander," Kirk said warmly, "how's the planet going? Are you still friendly with the natives?"

Kirby shrugged. "We're as friendly as ever. They only tolerate us for the protection we provide against the Gorn."

Kirk motioned to Spock and the Vulcan joined them, the trio heading towards the native city. The city was extensive, with thousands of stone columns reaching towards the sky, and a house built around each column.

"There's a column for each family," Kirby explained, "and the house is built around it, with the column as the very centre of the household. It's supposed to represent stability within the family home. Columns near the centre of the city are old and signify high class, while newer ones are on the outskirts and are exposed to the elements."

"It's an interesting system." Kirk watched as a native pushed past him, holding two children close to her, all of which had ears that stuck out for a mile. Maybe not a mile, but their ears pointed out horizontally for ten centimetres on average and their canines stuck out from between their lips. Humans were very obvious among these people, mainly because of the size of their ears.

A native fell into step with Kirby, walking close to the trio. "Kirby-Mana, you and your Starfleet men must leave. It is not safe."

Kirby wrapped a gentle hand around the native's wrist. "What's the problem?"

"Human and Romulan pirates," the native whispered urgently, beige eyes appraising Kirk and Spock from beneath green bangs. "They plan to attack the outpost once the ship is gone."

"Thank you Iya-Tawe. Come to the outpost in ten minutes and we'll talk more."

The native disappeared and Kirk frowned. "What's that about?"

"I don't know. Iya-Tawe is one of my informants from within the native population. I earned his respect by helping the people rebuild after the last storm."

"Okay. Spock, keep your eyes peeled for Romulans." Kirk glanced around furtively and moved closer to his First Officer.

"Captain, we must return to the outpost at once."

"Yes, I have to agree with the Commander." Kirby nodded. "Let's go. Iya-Tawe will meet us there."

They returned to the outpost presently and moved through the brown grass and restless crewmembers, heading into the rusted outpost's private office. Iya-Tawe stood in there, shrouded in his brown cloak, only his beige eyes visible from within the shadow.

"Jeez, do you have to be so creepy?" Kirk demanded. Iya-Tawe dropped the cloak from around his face and smirked, eyes crinkling around the edges.

"I apologise. My countenance does… frighten some."

Kirk shook his head. "I'm not scared. So what do you have for us?"

"I will only share that information with Kirby-Mana."

Kirby moved forward and closed the door behind him, shutting the four in a four-walled, windowless room with two chairs and a desk. "What have you heard?"

"Their leader is named Nada. He was questioning your other informants for a way into the outpost and threatened them so they kept silent. They plan to steal in once darkness falls and take your technology. I have reason to believe that they have an invisible craft landed somewhere near the city."

"Did he question you?" Kirby asked.

"No, I went straight to you." Iya-Tawe tilted his head and smiled, his canines poking out. "I trust I may now be gifted with a communication device, Kirby-Mana."

Spock watched the exchange with interest, noting how 'Tawe' seemed to be a term of familiarity while 'Mana' was a term of respect. He could feel the trust between the two men and knew that Iya-Tawe's information was true. Such a relationship was undoubtedly rare on this planet, yet Iya-Tawe and Kirby had gained the other's trust and worked together to keep the peace. It was even rarer for an informant to be a key player in keeping the peace, as it was normally the military strength.

"Once this threat is neutralised, the device is yours." Kirby pressed the back of his hand to his mouth and nodded. Iya-Tawe returned the gesture.

"They do not have a ground base. If you find their ship, you find them." Iya-Tawe retreated from the room, pulling his cloak back up. Kirby turned to Kirk and Spock.

"We don't have the equipment to locate an invisible ship," he sighed. "Does your Starship?"

Spock nodded. "It does. Do you require or assistance?"

"Yes, if you could locate the ship I could fire a torpedo and eliminate the threat."

Kirk grinned. "I like the way you think!" He whipped out his communicator. "Keenser, do you read?"

"Affirmative."

"I need you to up the scanner sensitivity and scan the planet for any sign of another ship. This one should be invisible."

"Affirmative." A few beeps sounded and a grunt of annoyance. "Yes Captain. Sending coordinates now."

"Thanks Keenser." His communicator vibrated and he opened the map of the planet, showing Kirby exactly where the ship was. "We've got top-of-the-line stuff! We could take them out if you like."

"That'd be-"

"Captain! CAPTAIN!"

A panicked Sulu rushed through the ajar door and nearly bowled Spock over. Kirk jumped. "Sulu! SULU! What's the problem?"

Sulu placed his hands on his knees and panted for a second. He looked up at the Captain and shouted, "Pasha's missing!"

o.O.o

"The information is unmistakable," Spock concluded. "The location of the pirate ship, as well as Lieutenant Chekov's transmitter signal, indicates that the pirates have taken him into custody."

Kirk moaned. "I take it that blowing it sky high is off the table?"

"Affirmative, if we wish to see Lieutenant Chekov alive again."

Sulu groaned. "I should have kept a closer watch on him! He was there one minute and the next, he was gone!"

"They're onto us," Kirby said hurriedly. "They know that we know. Your navigator is a bargaining chip."

"Starfleet doesn't negotiate with terrorists," Kirk declared hotly. "We'll find a way to get Chekov out of there and then we'll blow it sky high!"

o.O.o

Kirk fiddled with his cloak and checked his scanner again. "Honestly Spock, you could've gotten me a better material. This one's really scratchy!"

His First Officer shrugged non-committedly. "You must accept what you are given."

"In Spock-speak, 'shut up and stop complaining'," Kirk muttered. "I'm detecting two bogeys up ahead." He activated his communicator. "Keenser, we're in position. Fire the EMP now."

"Firing."

A soft breeze ruffled their hair and Kirk's scanner blacked out. "Their suspicions will undoubtedly be raised," the Vulcan murmured. He raised his phaser and they crouched in the tall grass, hidden by the thickness of the blades. They were one of the many pairs that were scattered around the grass field and the mission was to sneak up to the ship and attack if things got ugly. Normally Spock would accept such a mission with ease, but Kirk's complaining was beginning to irk him. After all, the Vulcan wore a similar scratchy cloak to better blend in to the grass. Their normal Starfleet uniforms would be visible for miles in this foliage.

A plan had hurriedly been developed to retrieve Chekov and destroy the pirates at the same time. Seven pairs of officers were disguised and surrounded the ship as a back-up. Once Keenser fired the electromagnetic pulse, the ship would lose all its technology and the cargo bay door would fall open automatically, allowing Sulu to tiptoe on board and grab Chekov while the pirates were scratching their heads. When Sulu and Chekov were out, the pairs would retreat and Kirby would fire torpedoes from the outpost and destroy the ships. It was a hasty plan, but they didn't have time to figure out a more sound strategy. Chekov's life was in danger and they needed to rescue him as soon as possible.

Kirk's voice broke the momentary silence between the two. "I'm guessing that if the pirates get the technology, it'll be really bad."

"You are correct," Spock agreed. "This outpost lies on the very border between the United Federation of Planets and the Gorn Hegemony and our control over this world is a precarious one. If these pirates are searching for technology, as you assume, the ruling power over Cestus III will become the Gorn and they will gain another foothold into Federation space."

"So I'm right, if the pirates get their way the entire planet is screwed."

"Yes. We can continue later."

"Right." Their scanner flicked back on and Kirk appraised it eagerly. "The bogeys are standing still. We need to move forward a few metres before they come into sight. Then we can shoot them." He frowned as the signals disappeared. "I think someone just did that. Come on, let's get closer." When Spock hesitated before moving, an amused smile crossed across Kirk's face. "Was that Zia?"

"Yes. She requested to know if our mission was successful." Spock started moving and they crawled forward through the glass, towards where the ship would be. The pair closest to them became visible and Sulu had his face set determinedly as they approached their target.

"They should be busy given that we just hit them with an EMP. Hopefully they don't realise what's happening until after we get Chekov out."

The pairs converged on the ship and hunkered down in the grass, aiming phasers at the space where the ship was currently residing. It was a perfect picture of invisibility, if not for the open cargo bay door that seemed to lead to a room hovering in the sky. Kirk caught Sulu's gaze and nodded. Sulu whipped out his katana and approached the ship alone, crawling up the invisible ramp slowly.

Spock bent down so close that his breath touched Kirk's neck. "Do you believe Lieutenant Sulu will succeed?"

"He has to. As soon as he gets Chekov out we're getting out of here and letting Kirby fire torpedoes at the ship before they can take off." Kirk smiled grimly. "We don't react nicely when one of our own is captured."

"Surely they intended to use Lieutenant Chekov as a hostage."

"They're sure in for a surprise. On the Enterprise, we don't leave a friend behind. Never ever."

Spock's frown softened. "I believe that we will succeed. The just cause normally prevails unless the participants are inextricably foolish."

Kirk snickered. "So the good guys win unless they make stupid, selfish decisions."

"Precisely."

"I really think your human side is making an appearance."

"Hush."

They ducked down lower in the grass as a human pirate walked down the invisible cargo ramp, holding a primitive gun and binoculars. Every other pair ducked and froze as the pirate ran his binoculars over the surrounding grass suspiciously. Without scanners, their ability to detect danger was greatly reduced. Sulu had to hurry, otherwise the ship could come back online and the pirates would realise what was happening. Then their plan was ruined.

"We have one minute and fifty-three seconds until the ship overcomes the electromagnetic pulse," Spock breathed.

"They'll be back. Sulu's never failed us before and Chekov means a lot to him." Kirk smiled as the pirate retreated back into the ship without detecting anything.

"Do not move," Spock whispered imperceptibly. As if on cue, the pirate whipped around and narrowed his eyes on the field. It was a basic scout trick and no one fell for it. They remained still even when the pirate disappeared into the invisible space.

Someone shouted from inside the ship and phaser fire was heard from inside. Spock and Kirk readied their weapons and watched as the ship came into view, its cloak finally failing. Kirby's men began to back away slowly, phasers still aimed at the ship, preparing to run when Sulu and Chekov rushed out.

A tense silence ensued, broken by the rustling of grass. Spock's heart pounded and he calmed it immediately, telling himself that Sulu and Chekov would get out and they would be fine. He blocked his troubled thoughts from the mind-meld and narrowed his eyes over the top of the phaser. If a single pirate stepped out of the ship, all those hours spent in the simulator would be worth it.

Two humans burst from the cargo bay, one wearing a plain brown cloak and the other sporting a tactical yellow shirt. More humans barrelled after them, primitive guns in hand. Sulu stumbled, pressing one hand to his side, and swung his katana with the other. Chekov dived into the grass, clutching his leg, and the pirates found themselves barraged by enemy fire. All seven pairs let loose with their phasers and shot to kill, all the while retreating from the space. Sulu and Chekov rushed after them, blood dripping from both of them. Meanwhile the pirates dropped like flies.

"Commander, now would be the time!" Kirk shouted into his communicator. "Okay, let's get out of here!" He tugged Spock's cloak and they retreated, Sulu and Chekov falling into step with them. Behind them, the ship whirred with life and a pirate opened a hatch at the top with a machine gun in hand. The Romulan aimed down the sights and fired at the withdrawing officers, missing Kirk by inches. They dived into the tree line and crawled away, covering their ears with their hands as an explosion sounded behind them.

o.O.o

Safe in the Enterprise Infirmary, Kirk activated his communicator. "Commander Kirby, what's your status?"

"It's good to hear from you Captain! We've detained the survivors and are treating them now. I'm heading out with a group to clean up the site. We'll be fine on our own."

Kirk looked across at where Sulu and Chekov lay unconscious on bio beds, the pilot with a gunshot wound to the navel and the navigator with one to his thigh. McCoy declared that they would be fine, but he was keeping them bedridden for a week until they were sufficiently recovered. "That's good news."

"Thank you for your help, Captain. You may have saved the planet from the Gorn."

"Hey, I'm born to help. Thanks for letting us stay for a couple hours. My crew needed it."

"Good luck with your mission."

"Likewise. Live long and prosper."

Kirby chuckled over the communicator. "Live long and prosper."

Kirk terminated the call and stood from the bed, his physical complete. McCoy said he was good to go and the Captain needed to give people orders. Spock joined him in the corridor and they walked to the Bridge together.

"Do you think we did the right thing?" Kirk asked quietly.

"Yes, I do. We protected the innocent."

"I suppose so, and Kirby's team is taking care of the survivors. I'm just wondering if any of them have a family… and if they're a pirate because they want to provide for their family. Some of them might not have any choice."

Spock's voice softened. "Captain, we performed the morally acceptable deed. The survivors may return to their family in the future. Starfleet does not tolerate people who perform dishonourable acts and there is always the option for an honest profession."

"So in Spock-speak, that's 'why be a criminal when you can get a real job since Starfleet likes people with real jobs'."

"I do not understand your use of the words 'Spock-speak'."

"Get used to it." They arrived on the Bridge. "I have enough trouble keeping up with your logic-babble as it is. Spock-speak is my translator." Kirk sat in his Captain's chair and looked at the acting pilot. "Set a course for Deep Space Area three-five-alpha-zulu-roger-six. That's our first stop."

"Yes Captain," the acting pilot said quickly. The Enterprise creaked and shot forward into unknown space. Kirk turned and grinned at Spock, earning a raised eyebrow from the Vulcan.

The real mission was just beginning.